Improving outcomes for patients with acute leukaemia

Professor David Gottlieb

Professor David Gottlieb

The University of SydneyFunding duration: 2016 - 2018

A team of researchers led by Professor David Gottlieb has discovered that the treatment of using enhanced white blood cells to fight infection and leukemia can reduce side effects in bone marrow transplant recipients.


Acute leukaemia is a devastating disease, which frequently recurs even after treatment with chemotherapy. A bone marrow transplant can cure acute leukaemia, but it can also cause significant complications and side effects including vulnerability to infections. In this pilot clinical trial, Professor Gottlieb and his team are combining the best techniques in stem cell transplantation to reduce these complications.

The research

New transplant techniques involve administering white blood cells that have been enhanced to fight infection and leukaemia. Professor Gottlieb is determining the best combination
of all these available transplant methods, which can be used to improve patient outcomes.
In the first phase of this project, the team successfully produced the optimised T cells – the first locally produced T cells of their kind in Australia – and received approval to be used in patients for clinical trials.

The team are now testing this new transplant technique in the clinic. Three patients with relapsed acute leukaemia have received genetically modified cells in bone marrow transplants and have shown excellent responses to the treatment. The team are now recruiting more patients to the pilot. In addition, the team have open trials that test the combination of leukaemia and infection-fighting cells after transplant.

The impact

If these trials are successful, patients with acute leukaemia who have a bone marrow transplant will have a better chance of survival and a much lower risk of complications and side effects, which can reduce quality of life. If this approach is shown to be safe and effective, transplantation could be also brought forward to earlier stages of cancer progression, when the potential to cure patients
is greater.

This new technique of bone marrow transplant may also be effective in treating other blood cancers including lymphoma and myeloma. Professor Gottlieb’s research offers new hope for better treatment outcomes for more than 11,000 Australians diagnosed with blood cancers every year.

Lead ResearcherResearch Team

Professor David Gottlieb
The University of Sydney

Dr Kenneth Micklethwaite
Dr Emily Blyth
Dr Leighton Clancy

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